April 7, 2012

Lent is always a good time for us to rest and more importantly to reflect. Maybe this is why we call it “Holy week.” 7 days for us to purposely meditate and pray so that we can survive the 51 “unholy” ones.

I did a little research. Mel Gibson in his movie “The Passion of the Christ” made it a little easier to grasp the situation. The cross today adorn many a man and woman’s necks as a nice piece of jewelry and what many people fail to understand is the fact that during the early days the cross symbolized a curse and it was not something to be proud of.

The cross consisted of a perpendicular stake with a crossbeam either at the top of the stake of shortly below the top. The height of the stake was usually little more than the height of a man. A block or a pin was sometimes driven into the stake to serve as a seat for the condemned person, giving partial support to his body. Sometimes also a step for the feet was fixed to the stake.

Victims of crucifixion did not usually die for 2 or 3 days. But this was determined by the presence or absence of the seat and the footrest, for a person suspended by his hands lost blood pressure quickly, and the pulse rate was increased. Usually the victim had been severely scourged before crucifixion took place. Total collapse through insufficient blood circulation to the brain and the heart would follow shortly. If the victim could ease his body by supporting himself with the seat and footrest, the blood could be returned to some degree of circulation in the upper part of his body. To fix the hands to the cross beam either cords or nails and cords were used; sometimes the feet were nailed also. When it was desired to bring the torture to an end, the victim’s legs were broken below the knees with a club. It was then no longer possible for him to ease his weight, and the loss of blood circulation was accentuated. Coronary insufficiency followed shortly. The victim’s offense was usually published by a crier who preceded him to the place of execution. Sometimes it was written on a tablet, which was carried by the condemned man himself. The cross in the olden days was a symbol of a curse. Today many a man and woman use it to adorn their necks. This is the image of Friday.

But Sunday brings us to a different message.

As a young man, Chicago based minister D.L. Moody was called upon suddenly to preach a funeral sermon. He hunted all throughout the four Gospels trying to find one of Christ’s funeral sermons, but searched in vain. He found that Christ broke up every funeral he ever attended. Death could not exist where he was. When the dead heard his voice they sprang to life. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life.”

And here is another story.

Margaret Sangster Phippen wrote that in the mid 1950s her father, British minister W. E. Sangster, began to notice some uneasiness in his throat and a dragging in his leg. When he went to the doctor, he found that he had an incurable disease that caused progressive muscular atrophy. His muscles would gradually waste away, his voice would fail, his throat would soon become unable to swallow.

Sangster threw himself into his work in British home missions, figuring he could still write and he would have even more time for prayer. “Let me stay in the struggle Lord,” he pleaded. “I don’t mind if I can no longer be a general, but give me just a regiment to lead.” He wrote articles and books, and helped organize prayer cells throughout England. “I’m only in the kindergarten of suffering,” he told people who pitied him.

Gradually Sangster’s legs became useless. His voice went completely. But he could still hold a pen, shakily. On Easter morning, just a few weeks before he died, he wrote a letter to his daughter. In it, he said, “It is terrible to wake up on Easter morning and have no voice to shout, ‘He is risen!’–but it would be still more terrible to have a voice and not want to shout.”

Don’t shout: “It’s back to work again on Tuesday!”

It’s great to shout: “Christ is Risen!”

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